It is a while since I've posted in here - been riding too much!
Yes, literally I have been riding way too much (30,000+miles/year or 130 miles/day) and am suffering from some practice makes permanent - bad habits. Have read writings from many of the "experts" but am trying to model my riding on the Roadcraft / Mike Waite philosophy
I have become exceptionally comfortable on my trusty steed. So much so I find myself not paying attention and riding on auto pilot often only becoming aware of hazards as I am negotiating them. I will also find myself traveling at a speed which I feel safe (as opposed what the govt thinks is safe).
My question is:
Are there any techniques which can help me retain a sensible level of concentration when riding long distances?
The short answer to your question is that you've answered it yourself
The idea that we can maintain concentration for long periods simply isn't how our brain works, despite the idea often suggested by safety bodies that the key to safety is to 'maintain high levels of concentration'. It simply cannot be achieved over the course of a long ride.
The longer answer is that so-called 'concentration' uses the most modern part of the human brain, the neo-cortex, to process information in real time. The problem is that it's easily tired - adult attention span is 20 minutes or so, which is why any good training or teaching programme uses short, sharp presentations and changes of pace to keep students alert. It's why learning to ride a motorcycle is so tiring - at first you have to do everything consciously, even the "simple" stuff like operating the clutch.
But after a bit you learn a routine and you can move onto more complex tasks like changing gear because the clutch control is now mostly automated - what's happened is that the limbic system of the brain has learned that it's something you need to do regularly and takes over the task- just like doing up shoelaces as a kid! That's what you're experiencing when you say you are now "exceptionally comfortable"
When you first ride on the road, every situation you find yourself in is novel and needs that exhausting, real-time processing via the neo-cortex. But quite quickly, you learn which bits of riding are relatively safe and can be dealt with on autopilot by the limbic system, and which threats to your health need real-time assessment via the neo-cortex. It's a natural part of learning to ride.
The trick is to get that real-time threat assessment happening BEFORE the hazard poses a serious threat - because there's a third, very old part of the human brain ready to leap in and take over when it senses the risk of personal harm - the 'reptilian brain'. It's the seat of Keith Code's so-called 'survival reactions' which take over and make inappropriate decisions like grabbing and locking the brakes or freezing and doing nothing. Letting the 'reptilian brain' take control is the cause of many motorcycle acccidents.
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